New to ministry, I remember sitting in a seminar room with other pastors’ wives when our speaker asked us to write down one ministry fear. I feared many things…but surprised myself writing, “to be too tired to serve well.” I feared burnout! Though almost two decades later my propensity is still toward burning the candle at both ends, my soul has a greater awareness and longing to find my rest in God’s faithfulness. This is a continual challenge for my husband and me as we serve in rural church-planting ministry – our Achilles heel! I see spiritual similarities from a Google word study I did: An Achilles heel is a weakness in spite of an overall strength which can lead to downfall. Symptoms include pain and limited range of motion. The cure? Rest, support, and flexing exercises for the ankles. Left untreated? Painful rupture of the tendons and inability to move fully. Rest is crucial for our bodies physically just as times of respite are needed for longevity in ministry.
Googling ‘rest’ yielded me pictures of fluffy pillows and someone dreamily laying in the grass with a definition of “rest means to relax into something and let it support you.” Resting in the Lord becomes reality as we let God be our sole support: our Rock, Refuge, and Strength. I love the encouragement God gives to the Israelites (and their honest response), “Thus says the LORD: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ (Jeremiah 6:16)
Three ways as pastoral couples we can find rest for our souls:
- Soulful and Creative Rest
- Family Rest
- Friendship Rest
- Soulful rest – time spent resting in God’s Word, Prayer, and Worship. We lived in a tiny house on the Snake River nestled in the Sandhills of Nebraska for four months while involved in the early stages of rural church-planting. It was a time of soulful rest for us. We didn’t hook up a phone line or TV for this short time and there were no cell phone towers. God’s Creation played continually on the big screen outside. We took walks alone or together and gave ear to what the Lord wanted to speak to us. Listening is so much easier in the quiet of nature’s speech. Fifteen years later- we have to work harder at rest!
Morning soulful goals: Keep them meaningful yet attainable on a daily basis.
- Unrushed time in God’s Word (click here for a post on the Flowers blog by Amber Fox)
- Study time – we each read a daily devotional and are currently working to use an app on our phones to study a book or topic of the Bible with others from church (ladies for me and men with my husband)
- Prayer time – I often walk the length of our living room to stay focused while I pray. (click here for some Flowers prayer guides). My husband kneels by our coffee table while he prays. We pray together in the mornings at times but mostly, we pray together at night.
- Worship – we’ve chased away many ‘Monday blues’ by singing or listening to hymns and worship music together.
- A PW friend, Maggie from NE shares, “This is another area where I feel really depleted but I am gaining in doing this better. My husband gives me three hours on Monday night to do whatever I want to recharge. I’ve done anything from prayer, devotionals, Bible reading, journaling, coloring while listening to music, walking and praying, working on creative aspects of my business, reading books to help me with things I’m dealing with, to talking on the phone with distant friends. God uses creativity to really refuel me and reconnect. My husband schedules a daily devo/prayer time and tries to exercise in the morning. He also tries to meet with or call a good friend to pray with or talk to.”
- Check out a favorite devotional of mine written by fellow PW, Leigh Powers- Renewed: A 40-Day Devotional for Healing from Church Hurt and for Loving Well in Ministry.
- Long-time friend and PW Lois says “Biblical rest is an attitude of HEART that directly relates to weariness of SOUL which in turn affects the BODY.”
Creative rest goals: Ask yourself what you enjoy doing that helps you rest in the Lord. As pastoral couples, we can tend to exhaust ourselves trying to protect our creative spaces to keep critics away. Let’s enjoy counting the gifts in life as Ann Voskamp encourages in her book, 1000 Gifts.
- I love to re-organize previously cluttered spots, dust, organize meals for others, plan church events, play games with family, thrift-store shop, read out loud to our kids or my husband in the car, listen to classical or worship music, sit by a fire, walk outside at the glow of dusk, look at the stars on a clear night, lose myself in a forest of trees, move furniture and décor around for a new look, watch flowers grow in the Spring and leaves change in the Fall.
- Plan your dinner party: NY Times best-selling author Tricia Lott-Williford wrote a chapter on planning dinner parties for a group but also a dinner party for just one in her book You Can Do This. She asks who we would invite to our dinner party. I would invite Priscilla from the New Testament, Coretta Scott King the matriarch of civil rights, Helen Keller and missionary Elizabeth Elliot. Be creative with your list! As an artist/writer Tricia says, “I thought maybe I could do all this differently, following the creation model of my Creator: Create. Call it good. Rest.”
- A PW friend, Sarah from IA says, “I have plenty of hobbies that are restful, and since attending a pastor’s wives retreat last month that was focused on rest, I’m doing a lot better at carving out time to spend with the Lord.”
- Music – listen to, create/compose your own, play it on an instrument, sing gustily with others at church. Enjoy the gift of music God has given us!
Couple’s Rest – Oh the challenge of finding ways to ‘rest in the Lord’ while being involved in pastoral ministry together! One PW friend says, “We try to connect daily to stay sane.”
- We are blessed to have a mentor pastoral couple in our lives who have 45+ years of small-town/rural church strengthening experience. They recently shared with us that “we had seasons where the only rest we had was what we managed to get at night. At one point we would count a shopping trip to a larger town a rest day as we’d go when the kids were in school.”
- Many a time when our kids were younger and snug in bed for the night, my husband and I would get out our two nicest glasses, pour pomegranate grape juice, and enjoy one evening a week playing games, reading a book together (Tolkein or Rosenberg are two favorites), or watching a video together. Our goal was to make each other laugh hard but not wake the kids!
- Family Rest – time spent outside of ministry enjoying life as a family. My husband tries to pick the same time each week to ensure family time happens. If we don’t make the usual time, we reschedule!
- When our kids were 10, 8, 6, 3, and 1 we established Monday Night Family Night. It was a riot! The girls helped me make a nice meal, set the table, and rotated who got to decorate the table with anything they could find. This was when our house was 900 sq/ft with no basement and our dining room was half of our living space.
- I keep track of funny things the kids have said over the years in what we call The Family Funny Book. We’ve been known to pull out this entertaining little book and read past comments while enjoying ice cream after Sunday dinner.
- We play board or card games together,
- Perhaps the best times we have as a family involve being in the great outdoors. My husband and oldest three kids love to hunt which means there’s four in the family that need to target practice. We all enjoy walking, hiking, riding bikes, and playing sports outside as time and weather allow.
- Friendship Rest – restful times spent with friends.
- One of my PW friends, Sonya from Kansas is super intentional about spending time with another PW; they live several hours apart but make it their goal to get together quarterly.
- I love the encouragement that comes from spending time with other PWs or with pastoral couples. One time my husband and I drove to the closest big town to have supper together. Another pastoral couple walked in just as we were sitting down and we ended up eating together and having a great time!
- A good friend is a rare and precious gift for any PW; I have prayed for such a friend in each place we have lived. God has been faithful answering this prayer.
- A PW shares that she enjoys doing crafts with other ladies from her church and sometimes they work on church projects together.
- The ladies in our church-plant have recently started a hospitality team. We have met in our home or the church kitchen to make meals to bless others with. Each time we gather we laugh and destress, cook or swap recipes, and spend time in prayer. Corporate prayer is one of my very favorite things to do whether in a weekly Moms in Prayer group or a church prayer gathering.
Psalm 23 describes one of the most ‘restful’ pictures in the history of mankind. If we let our culture shepherd us, there will be no rest; as we let God and His Word shepherd us, we find green pastures and quiet waters for our weary souls. Read this passage tonight before falling asleep!
Additional Resources- What about extreme times of burnout? I recommend listening to an interview with Shona Murray (PW at a time of extreme burnout/clinical depression) called Fighting an Allegiance to Busyness on Christine Hoover’s By Faith podcast from Feb. 3, 2020.
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